When She Returned by Lucinda Berry

Book Description:

Published: October 15, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

One woman’s reappearance throws her family into turmoil, exposing dark secrets and the hidden, often devastating truth of family relationships.

Kate Bennett vanished from a parking lot eleven years ago, leaving behind her husband and young daughter. When she shows up at a Montana gas station, clutching an infant and screaming for help, investigators believe she may have been abducted by a cult.

Kate’s return flips her family’s world upside down–her husband is remarried, and her daughter barely remembers her. Kate herself doesn’t look or act like she did before.

While the family tries to help Kate reintegrate into society, they discover truths they’ve been hiding from each other about their own relationships. But they aren’t the only ones with secrets. As the family unravels what happened to Kate, a series of shocking revelations shows that Kate’s return is more sinister than any of them could have imagined.

Review –

Dark and disturbing…

When Kate Bennett vanished from a Target parking lot, her husband and daughter never thought they would see her again. But eleven years later, Kate shows up dehydrated and malnourished, showing signs of severe abuse in Montana holding a baby. With Kate returning, her family’s lives are turned upside down. As they struggle to understand what happened with Kate during those years, shocking revelations come to surface and threaten to destroy their lives. The narrative shifts between past and present and is told from the perspectives of Kate(first wife), Meredith(new wife), and Abbi, (daughter). Kate’s story is chilling and full of dread as she recounts the shocking cruelty from her days/years in “captivity”. The author’s exploration of Kate’s complete entrapment in the cult community is both compelling and disturbing. The pace gets hampered in the middle from the monotony of Kate’s story, but Berry threw in another twist that invests readers’ interest until the shocking culmination and what an ending it is!!!

I listened to this while traveling from Oklahoma to Alabama last month and kept my mind off the HUGE semi-trucks that traverse I-40.

Five star read!

 

The Night Before (Savannah #1) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: May 7, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Blood Will Be Spilled. . .

In the dark shadows of a sultry southern town, a serial killer strikes. It’s an act of sinister precision that has happened many times before. . .every victim an offering to a hunger that can never be sated. . .

Night After Night. . .

The next morning, Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes covered in blood. But Caitlyn has no memory of the night before, when her estranged husband was brutally murdered like so many others she has known. . .

After Night. . .

Wanted by the police and haunted by horrifying, fragmented memories, Caitlyn turns to Adam Hunt, the town’s new psychologist. But how far can she really trust him? For as a twisted killer strikes again and again, Caitlyn’s about to discover that those who appear the most innocent are usually the most evil. . .

Review –

The Montgomery family are the rich family in town going back a few generations. With that wealth has come “The Montgomery Curse” which has to do with mental illness, incest, womanizing, and mysterious deaths in the family that are occurring in a systematic fashion. So when Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes up in her blood-soaked bedroom, she knows something is very wrong. Problem is, she can’t remember where she was or what she did the night before. That becomes a huge problem when she finds out that her estranged husband, Josh Bandeaux, committed suicide or was murdered the night before.

 I figured out one of the plot twists fairly early on but I did not see the twist about who the killer was coming. Totally took me by surprise!

Loved it!

Rivalry (Slay Quartet #1) by Laurelin Paige

Book Description:

Published: June 4, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Edward Fasbender is a devil.

He’s my father’s business rival, a powerful, vicious man who takes what he wants and bows to no one. I only took the meeting because I was curious. I thought he was going to offer me a job.

But that’s not what he’s after at all. His proposal is much more intriguing, and I see an opportunity. An opportunity to turn the tables and bring down the devil.

I’ve gotten in trouble playing these games before. I know when the risk is too great, when the stakes are too high. I know how to be cold and strong-willed and destructive. I know how to withstand dominant men with arrogant charm and rugged features.

Yet I can’t resist taking on Edward.

And I can’t resist the pull he has on me.

Soon I’m not so sure which side of the battle I’m standing on–if I’m the warrior meant to slay,

Or the one who will be slain.

Slay is Book One in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, Laurelin Paige, next dark and edgy series.

Review –

“SLAY: Rivalry is the first instalment in Laurelin Paige’s contemporary, adult dark, romance quartet focusing on billionaire media mogul Edward Fasbender, and Celia Werner. The SLAY Quartet is a spin-off from the author’s FIXED series, and falls in the timeline before Fixed Forever and a few years after Forever with You. SLAY: Rivalry can be read as a stand aloe without any difficulty. Any important information erom the previous installments is revealed where necessary

Told from first person point of view (Celia) SLAY: Rivalry follows Celia Werner as she is propositioned by her father’s enemy Edward Fasbender. As the heir to the Werner Media Company, Celia finds herself targeted by a man whose predilection towards domination and control may be beyond anything she could have imagined. As one who knows how to play the ‘game’ Celia accepts Edward’s offer of marriage, a marriage in name only that leaves our heroine struggling with a direction in life, but a life that is no longer under her control. Celia entered into the ‘marriage’ wholly aware that her life was about to change but wasn’t prepared for the dark and dangerous consequences of her actions.
Celia Werner is a manipulator who plays ‘games’ with people’s lives. Having previous met Celia in the author’s Fixed Series, we will learn to understand the mind of a woman who battles her own personal demons, demons that lead to her need for control.

SLAY: Rivalry is a story of power and control; of domination and submission; of hatred, anger, vengeance and betrayal; an intense and emotional tale. Celia believes she is in control but she lost that control the moment she agreed to become Edward’s wife. The premise is dark and raw; Edward is a dangerous, angry and frightening b*astard; Celia has come up against someone much stronger at playing the ‘game’. SLAY: Rivalry ends on a cliff hanger-you have been warned.

NOTE: Due to the nature of the story line content, there may be some triggers for more sensitive readers.” The Reading Cafe

The Washington Decree by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

The president has gone way too far. . . . These are practically dictatorial methods we’re talking about.

Sixteen years before Democratic Senator Bruce Jansen was elected president of the United States, a PR stunt brought together five very different people: fourteen-year-old Dorothy “Doggie” Rogers, small-town sheriff T. Perkins, single mother Rosalie Lee, well-known journalist John Bugatti, and the teenage son of one of Jansen’s employees, Wesley Barefoot. In spite of their differences, the five remain bonded by their shared experience and devotion to their candidate.

For Doggie, who worked the campaign trail with Wesley, Jansen’s election is a personal victory: a job in the White House, proof to her Republican father that she was right to support Jansen, and the rise of an intelligent, clear-headed leader with her same ideals. But the triumph is short-lived: Jansen’s pregnant wife is assassinated on election night, and the alleged mastermind behind the shooting is none other than Doggie’s own father.

When Jansen ascends to the White House, he is a changed man, determined to end gun violence by any means necessary. Rights are taken away as quickly as weapons. International travel becomes impossible. Checkpoints and roadblocks destroy infrastructure. The media is censored. Militias declare civil war on the government. The country is in chaos, and Jansen’s former friends each find themselves fighting a very different battle, for themselves, their rights, their country . . . and, in Doggie’s case, the life of her father, who just may be innocent.

Review –

“The creator of Denmark’s Department Q, that unforgettable squad of misfit detectives, jumps the pond in this ambitious, paranoid fantasy of how quickly things can go wrong in the hands of an American president who’s determined to take a strong stand against threats of violence.

Sixteen years after Virginia governor Bruce Jansen’s first wife, Caroll, was stabbed to death during a very public moment on a visit to China, his successful run for the presidency comes to the worst possible climax when his second wife, Mimi Todd Jansen, is gunned down, perhaps in his stead, on election night. Deeply shaken by the first death, Jansen is so traumatized by the second that observers wonder whether he’ll take the oath of office or resign in favor of Vice President-elect Michael K. Lerner. As it turns out, Jansen not only assumes, but transforms the office, using agencies and executive orders already in place to step up surveillance on his fellow citizens, unplug the internet, defang or shutter critical journalistic outlets, and ban first ammunition, then guns from private ownership. Members of paramilitary militias like Moonie Quale predictably go ballistic, but members of Jansen’s cabinet, many of them touched by personal violence against their loved ones, overwhelmingly support him. So far the scenario recalls that of It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’ classic 1935 novel of homegrown American fascism. Adler-Olsen’s complication is his decision to focus not on a single American oppressed and powerfully radicalized by the new regime but by an oddly assorted group—journalist John Bugatti, presidential press secretary Wesley Barefoot, Sheriff T. Perkins, and staff attorney Dorothy “Doggie” Rogers, whose father is convicted of arranging Mimi Todd Jansen’s murder—who were all present on that fateful day in Beijing.

Despite a disturbing and all-too-plausible concept duly supported by an appendix listing real-life executive orders ripe for tyrannical misuse, this nightmare gradually turns into a standard-issue lots-of-good-guys-versus-even-more-bad-guys scenario populated by characters you’ll hardly miss when they’re killed, as so many of them are.” Kirkus Review 

I highly recommend this book, it’s scary to think this could happen in our not-so-distant future.

Don’t Ever Tell by Lucy Dawson

Book Description:

Published: June 25, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 3

Never make a promise you can’t afford to keep…

This is a story about Charlotte – a mother and a wife with the perfect job, the perfect life… at least, that’s how it looks from the outside.

But behind closed doors, the marriage is breaking, and Charlotte’s husband Tris doesn’t even know how much. He has no idea what Charlotte has planned for him, who she has found, why she has hired someone to pretend to be her. But he doesn’t have long to wait to find out…

Don’t Ever Tell will keep you gripped from the very first page andhave you guessing until the very last. From the bestselling author of The Daughter and White Lies comes an unputdownable psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before!

Review –

While premise for this book sounded like an intriguing idea, I just don’t think it hit the mark. It was not edge-of-your-seat. It was not exciting. And it was definitely not fast paced. (Not that a book has to be fast paced to be exciting). I’ve read many slow burn starts, but this one just took too long to explode…and even then, it didn’t. The reveals, when they came, were not mind blowing or shocking. In fact, despite never actually saying so, I made one of the links very early on which was only confirmed when a character’s full name was disclosed. Then it made sense. The other was quite clever, I admit.

However, the execution of reveals were a little convoluted I felt, and didn’t flow. The reader would be left wondering at the end of Mia’s chapter, only to pick up in Charlotte’s next in a completely different place and you’re left wondering “What…?” Even when it did pick up where the previous chapter left off, it felt as if it was just thrown in as a “by the way”. It made for confusing reading that didn’t flow as neatly as it could have.

The climax, which began in the Prologue, that took us through to the ultimate ending wasn’t really edge-of-your-seat stuff. And in the end, the reader is left with questions as to what actually happened on “that night”. There was no surprise, no shock, no real twist – just a lot of unanswered questions.

I truly don’t recommend the book unless you like to spending you reading time being confused and dazed from beginning to end.

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Description:

Published: February 5, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 3 

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…

Review –

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides shows you exactly what type of book it’s aiming to be from the very first sentence: “Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.” No messing around here.

For people who like their thrillers/mysteries to have twisty plots and straight-forward writing, this recent release is one to look at. Since its February 2019 release, it’s been climbing all over the bestseller charts and is being developed into a movie by heavy-hitters Annapurna and Plan B. 

 

The premise of this book is fantastic. I was engaged right away. The ending is surprising, even if you guess the twist (I didn’t, but some might), and the way the crucial scene of the book plays out is well done. I was skeptical of whether the book would come together, and I pleasantly surprised that it ultimately does.

For most thrillers, I think, the ending is the make-it-or-break it aspect of the story, and this one is pretty solid. Michaelides’s debut novel is an easy, accessible and entertaining read, and it will undoubtedly make for a thrilling movie if and when that is released.

Overall, the story keeps your interest and is well-paced. It reads pretty much the way a thriller should read, with plenty of twists and intriguing bits of information doled out at a steady clip.

I didn’t really see what all the hype was about, because I’ve read better books, even this year. I only gave it three stars because the “ah ha” moment doesn’t come until very late in the story and some of the journal entries are just plain boring and even at times laughable.

 

 

 

 

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Review – 

On the day after Iris and Will’s seventh wedding anniversary, they’re ready to start trying for a baby. But all is not as it seems.

From the outside, it looks like they have a perfect marriage. Friends and family admire their beautiful home, great jobs, and passionate commitment to each other. All this changes when Will dies on a plane flight he wasn’t supposed to be on.

Scheduled to be en route to Florida to make a presentation at a cybersecurity conference, his name is found on the passenger manifest of a plane bound for Seattle after it crashes in a field. Looking through his files to try to figure out what he was up to, Iris finds a new will and $2.5 million in life insurance policies Will had taken out only months earlier. At a memorial service for the crash victims, she meets Corban, who introduces himself as a friend of Will’s from the gym. According to Corban, Will was on his way to a job interview in Seattle, but the office he was interviewing with has never heard of him. Will doesn’t seem to be hiding a secret lover, but nothing Iris believed about her husband turns out to be true. Iris proves herself a relentless investigator in a case that takes her to Will’s hometown to solve the mystery of whom she married. High school classmates present a very different—and chilling—picture of Will. The suspense builds rapidly from there as Iris pulls back Will’s layers of deception and solves the mystery of what the circumstances of his death meant for their marriage.

Another  compelling adventure from Kimberly Belle!

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: September 30, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

One woman will stop at nothing to discover the devastating truth about her family…

Chasing disasters around the globe keeps humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews away from her own ground zero. Now, after sixteen years in jail for the murder of her stepmother in small-town Tennessee, Gia’s father has come home to die of cancer. And she’s responsible for his care.

Resuming the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer means confronting the past she’s spent over a decade avoiding. But in the end, the truth about what really happened may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated…

Review –

Have you ever thought that you would give anything to know the truth about a situation and then when you do find that truth, wish you hadn’t? That, for me sums up this debut novel by Kimberly Belle.

This book is a thought provoking dramatic undertaking that takes a decade old crime and uses it to dissect and examine the characters who all were affected by it.  While the mystery is a strong base the story is built on, I found the character dynamics far more prevalent. A trio of siblings, torn apart by their stepmother’s death and father’s conviction of the crime must come together and finally deal with the past and their own feelings towards their father and each other. The author combines a blend of humor,  sorrow, and compassion as she tells us a story of love, loss, jealousy, guilt, and forgiveness. Using the past and the present, Belle guides us down a long twisting road, letting us form our own opinions about what happened as we listen to the victims recollections of what happened and the accounts of all those left behind to question and wonder.

Fantastic read!

 

 

The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

Book Description:

Published: August 6, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The perfect life. The perfect love.

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

Review –

“The Perfect Wife follows Abbie, who as the story opens, wakes up not knowing who she is or where she is.  Tim, the man who is with her when she wakes up, says that he is her husband and begins to fill in some of the gaps in her memory, telling her that she is an artist and a mother.  What he tells her next is rather unsettling.  Tim, a giant in the Silicon Valley tech industry, informs Abbie that she was in a horrific accident five years ago that took her from him. Through the magic of a technological breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence, he has managed to bring her back from the dead.  The Abbie we are following in the story is actually an AI robot that is basically a clone of Tim’s real wife.

The technology is such that even many of Abbie’s memories were able to be uploaded into the AI unit. What starts to happen, however, is that the more AI Abbie pieces together about the real life relationship between her alter ego and Tim, the more she questions what Tim’s motives really are and his version of the accident that took Abbie from him.  Is he really just a sad guy who misses his wife and wants to preserve her memory (in a slightly creepy way) or is there more to it?

I really enjoyed the many twists and turns of the story as AI Abbie gets closer and closer to unraveling the mystery of what happened to the real Abbie and what Tim’s role in it was.  There’s plenty of suspense and I just loved the sci fi twist, especially having the story told from the perspective of the AI so that we can see her piecing together all of the key details needed to solve the mystery.  The AI tech speak was interesting too, even if I didn’t necessarily understand all of it or wholly buy into the idea of being able to upload memories into an AI unit. It was still fascinating to even consider the possibility.  I also liked the exploration of the moral implications – would such a thing even be considered ethical since you’re basically artificially cloning a person without his or her consent?

I also liked that in addition to the science fiction angle and the mystery/psychological thriller angle, the story has even more layers that deal with marriage and family.  The author does an especially nice job of realistically depicting all of the challenges that come with raising a child who is on the autism spectrum.

If a psychological thriller with a sci fi twist and a wholly original plot sounds like something you would enjoy, J. P. Delaney’s The Perfect Wife should be on your must-read list.” thebookishlibra

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Book Description:

Published: January 9, 2018

Format:   Audio/OverDrive

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Review –

Murder, mayhem, and chalk figures in a sleepy English village.

“In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie Adams enjoys spending time with his group of friends: Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo, and the lone girl in the group, Nicky. He’s largely insulated from his mother’s work as an abortion provider and its accompanying risks, and it’s her income that keeps the household afloat, since his father’s freelance writing jobs are hit and miss. When Eddie finds the decapitated and dismembered body of a local girl in the woods, it stirs up terrible secrets and forbidden passions.

In 2016, Eddie is a teacher who harbors a mild crush for his much younger boarder, Chloe, and isn’t eager to revisit the traumatic events of ’86. He still feels particularly bad about his part in the downfall of a teacher with albinism who was kind to him. When he’s contacted by Mickey Cooper, who claims he knows who really killed that girl, it opens old wounds, and a body count follows.

Readers will undoubtedly be reminded of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT. The dynamics among the kids are similar, complete with Nicky’s flaming red hair, and Eddie’s first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. The chalk markings the group works out to communicate tap into kids’ universal love for secret code and, of course, getting one over on their parents. Things takes a creepy turn when the symbols are twisted to fit someone’s not-so-innocent agenda.

A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980s will enjoy the nostalgia.” Kirkus Review

The ending is creepily eerie and changed my mind about Eddie. (no spoilers -you’ll have to read or listen to the book to see what I mean)

Five stars.